Browsing the archives for the Urban Homesteading category.

When your backyard flock grows. From chicken rearing to turkeys!

We were out of chick starter so a trip to the local farm supply store was on the agenda for the day. When visiting the farm supply store we have to visit the baby chick area if the kids are with us because kids LOVE to see baby birds and rabbits (even though the backyard is already full of them).

Did I mention that we got 12 additional baby chicks at the start of this spring? We did! They were on rebate at our local store, we got 10 for free. Can’t pass up free chicks! But we didn’t just get them because they were free… Our current flock of 6 produces from 2-4 eggs per day right now, our oldest hens are about 4 years old… That’s when egg production tends to decline. We used to get an egg a day from each hen. So we knew that we’d eventually need new layers for optimal egg efficiency.

Anyway, now the spring chicks are outside in their own confined run, growing and eating lots while they grow accustomed to our older hens through the protection of wire fencing… Did I mention they are eating lots?!

Today we were on a mission to buy some much needed feed and on the way past the live birds we were reeled in by yet another great deal. $2.00 clearance Turkeys! We had to buy a minimum of 6 turkeys, costing $12 but we are now the proud owners of 6 broad breasted turkeys, 3 bronze and 3 white.

The livestock grows on our little homestead. We are now raising Turkeys!

I don’t know that we’ll choose a broad breasted turkey in future turkey raising endeavors, we typically avoid altered foods and the broad breasted turkey is an altered breed. It’s designed to grow rapidly and is bred to get pretty large compared to heritage turkey breeds that grow slower and live longer. If we ever order turkeys I’m sure we’ll research more and probably pick a different breed but for now we are doing a practice run with these broad breasted turkeys.

We are really brushing up on our turkey raising knowledge right now. It is exciting to be trying something new this year and it’s a welcome distraction from waiting till our house sells ;)

How long until you have turkey to eat?

In as little as 3 1/2 months we could process them and fill our freezer with homegrown turkey! Although, we will likely want to wait as long as possible to butcher if circumstances permit. I’m thinking if they aren’t huge and if they are they are free ranging = not costing us a fortune in feed costs then I’d be glad to let them live until right before Turkey day… The longer they live the less space they are taking up in my freezer. However, this means they’ll need to be alive for the next 7 months. Typically at approximately 20 weeks or 5 months they are slaughter ready. At the 20 week mark the hens can be close to 30 lbs and the toms can be 40-50 lbs.

Broad Breasted Turkey mating, hatching and egg production.

Turkeys are sold as straight run, so there are toms and hens mixed when you buy. If we don’t have to butcher them this summer and we can put them off till fall we cold even have some turkey eggs to enjoy! Turkey hens lay eggs at 6-8 months of age. I’m sure the eggs are huge and delicious too. Which brings us to the idea of hatching your own turkeys…

Broad breasted turkeys are said to be physically unable naturally breed due to their breast size so your turkey eggs are likely to be infertile. The Toms could try mating with the hens but they physically don’t achieve successful fertilization for a number of reasons.

One Backyard Chickens member states:

“They can breed it is just that it is not efficient and the tom will crush/kill more hens then he would get bred and fertilized. You can successfully breed a BB back to a heritage. Hen will lay and the eggs will hatch, she will not lay as many as a heritage and she will not be able to sit on the nest as she will crush the eggs, more likely then not. But yes they can bred and it can be done just not very efficient.”

How much does it cost to feed a turkey? What will your finished turkey have cost you?

The estimates I’ve seen say that a turkey will eat the equivalent of 80lbs of bagged feed from hatching to the 20 week mark which puts them at costing about $1.20 per pound of live weight at a 20 week processing. That means feed costs for a 20 week slaughter could be as low as $36ish for a hen and up to $60 in the case of a large tom. This is cool by me since when we looked at buying free range local birds for thanksgiving last year they were running $75 each.

We figure we can adjust our slaughter timing based on feeds costs and growth rates. We are thinking we’ll have the means to free range them very soon and that will likely make things more cost effective and possibly will allow for a longer life span.

Can I raise Chickens and Turkeys Together?

This was our first question in the store. We don’t have room for separate runs and confinement. The only issue with cohabitation of turkeys and chickens is Blackhead Disease.

Blackhead disease is primarily a disease of young turkeys. Chickens are more resistant to the effects of the infection but may act as carriers of the disease-causing organism.

Turkeys may acquire the blackhead disease directly from the droppings of infected birds. Read more about blackhead disease here.

Disease aside, the only other issue to look out for in cohabitation of turkeys and chickens is aggressive behavior and territory battles. Things like turkeys trying to breach a chickens neck and such…

We plan to raise our birds together. We figured we could be economical to just add turkeys to our existing flock of chickens.

One down side to our impulse poultry buying is that we’ve found now ourselves with 6 poults (baby turkeys) and no turkey feed. Unlike chicks, turkeys need a higher protein containing feed. Our assumption that they could eat our baby chick starter food was WRONG. Don’t make the same mistake.

Poults need 28% protein to fuel their fast growth in the first 8 weeks of life, any higher protein amounts will cause growth problems. After they are 8 weeks old they can be reduced to a feed with 20-22% protein, at 14 weeks they can have something closer to 18-20% protein. The un-medicated chick starter we have contains 18% protein and our regular layer crumbles are only 16% protein.

If you find yourself in a similar predicament with only chicken feed when you come home with poults this little trick will save you. You can make an emergency poult feed from 50% rolled oats & 50% cornmeal by pulsing it in a food processor until it resembles typical poultry crumbles. I just made some and the poults, whom were rejecting the offered chick starter feed, are now eating! Note, this emergency feed should only be used in a pinch and for no longer than a day or you could wind up with some majorly deficient turkeys that could even die.

Feeding chickens and turkeys the same feed isn’t advised because of the varied protein requirements. Plus, the vitamin and mineral requirements of turkeys are much different from chickens… So until the turkeys are older and foraging for most of their own food, they’ll need their own special feed that is separate from the chickens. Guess I’ll be off to the farm supply store tomorrow for some turkey starter!

Have you raised turkeys before? How did it go?

Butter, oh butter

Making butter is quite easy but for some reason I’ve always viewed it as wasteful and unpractical. I guess I just assumed making butter requires you to use raw milk in it’s entirety (and raw milk is quite the commodity!). Plus, only a small portion of butter results from the whole gallon of milk and I was under the impression the liquid left over once the butter separates is a waste product.

I’ve never felt inclined to make butter myself. Yet I LOVE me some raw butter and as of late it’s been pretty hard to come by… and it so good for you.

The most healthful raw butter is a springtime commodity in the milking world.

Cows fed on rapidly growing spring grass produce milk that contains high levels of beta carotene and five times the amount of CLA, an essential fatty acid that has a strong anti-cancer properties.  (more…)

Big changes are in the works for this homestead!

Over the weekend we got a TON of outside work done here on the half-acre homestead because we just put our house on the market! That’s right, we can’t put it off any longer. Our house is in less that perfect showing condition and is VERY lived in with the five of us crammed in here but we have to at least give selling a try. (more…)

How does anyone with an actual job have time to do all of these crunchy things?!

stay-at-home-momA while back I was the target of some crunchy flaming, as some of you know. Apparently people don’t believe I actually do all the crunchy things I’ve written about and shared here on the blog and it became this debate/ venting session for all of them. Anyway, one of the comments made was…

Does she work or is the blog her full time gig?  How does anyone will an actual job have time to do all of those things? All I do is cloth diaper and I feel like it takes 9 million hours a month (it doesn’t. It just feels that way). I can’t imagine doing all of those other things, too. (more…)

A good deed for puppy = madness for the homestead

Today I took the girls out to the garden for our daily chores. We went out back near the pond today to pick from our other blackberry patch, where there are currently chiggers (thanks to a neighbor’s seriously overgrown grass back there). We have tomatoes & blackberries needing picking, some general bug removal and various other garden chores like spreading compost and planting seeds.

Our work was interrupted by a cute puppy freeing it’s self from the neighbor’s yard and coming right for us…

Now, this neighbor that owns the puppy also owns another young dog that frequently escapes their yard so when I saw the puppy escape their yard I knew acting fast was necessary. But a pregnant lady with 2 young kids can only act so quickly – and I was not quick enough.

Garden murder and more…

As avid organic gardeners, our days are spent waging war on garden enemies. Typically it’s silly stuff like picking cabbage worms or squash beetles (or similar) off our plants and then feeding them to the chickens. The girls are my little gaarden warriors, they assist me in collecting bugs in a bucket… (more…)

Reuse and repurposing: Our goal- Throwing less into dumps

There are many ways to recycle, reuse and conserve from day to day. You just have to look at things differently. As I become more and more earth friendly I discover new ways to reporpose, reuse and recycle.
For me, a focus on repourposing and reuse has been what we’ve continued to expand on. Can you believe this family of 4 only fills a regular treash can with dump-bound trash about every 2-3 weeks?
We’ve dramatically reduced the about of stuff that is dump-bound by:
  1. Composting kitchen scraps or giving it to our rabbits & chickens.
  2. Hauling our own recycling to a recycling center once a month.
  3. Basing our buying choices partly on product packaging.
  4. Buying less throwaway stuff, spending less money.
  5. Reusing things like mad.

Since it’s earth day, I’d like to share some of what we’ve got going on here at home where reuse is concerned and I’d love for you to share what you having going too. The more ideas we compile the “greener” we’ll all be right? (more…)

Keeping chickens & eating them: Thoughts on our first experience processing

It’s a cold and gloomy day here, we are in the upper 50′s this afternoon and the vibe is very lazy.

Everly has been watching childrens movies on the couch today, specifically snow related holiday ones. She knows the seasons are changing and is excitedly dreaming of lots of snow this winter.

I’ve been spending some much needed time on my own blog’s todo list between caring for the girls and the home.

On days like today an effortless, home-cooked, nourishing meal is best. So, I’ve got one of our roosters in the soup pot in prep for Everly’s favorite dinner, chicken and dumplings.

Remember my blog post about Helga Crowing back in September? We always knew we needed to learn the art of chicken processing, for the sake of self sufficiency, homesteading and respect for the life cycle/ process but we weren’t all that excited about it. If we were keeping chickens and eating chicken we knew that it was logical to be able to process them when their time was up.

We’d heard lots of negative hype surrounding killing and processing your own meat so we weren’t sure if we’d be efficient and effective… Or if the process would sit well with us. The morning a rooster crowed we knew it was time to find out. Turns out we had two surprise roosters.

Luckily, Nathan was a champ and he singlehandedly remedied that situation, he did great.  Once the bloody part was over the girls and I came home, we went to the store so no gory blood scenes would be witnessed.

When it came to plucking we were pleasantly surprised and Everly was curious. Chicken feathers are her favorite so she was curiously watching all the feathers that would soon be hers. I think we’ll make a dreamcatcher with some eventually.

 Two roosters went in the freezer that night and today I am finally cooking one up. Thanks to Helga #1 we’ll enjoy a homemade, nourishing meal on this cold fall evening. Thanks Helga for your meat and for the learning experience.


A peek inside the Ryder Homestead – 2012

Here is how the growing season shaped up in 2012:

Got something you’d love to see us blog about in detail when it comes to the garden? Let us know:

I’m no Martha Stewart… As you’ll see.

Since I have no staff to do my grunt work, test my recipes and generally make me look good it’s no surprise I’m not showcasing “Martha Stewart” quality baked goods right? Somehow that fact doesn’t make my pissed-off-at-the-damn-pie-dough attitude any better today…

Mama had a melt down last night. Almost two days of solo parenting was coming to a close, we just picked 24lbs of cherries, canned some rhubarb and were on to making/ eating dinner and making a cherry pie. Everly was helping with everything too (which means it took my brainpower to direct and supervise her).

After many attempts at rolling the chilled dough, the dough-covered rolling pin flew from my hands at high speed and crashed in to the cabinets before falling to the floor. I threw it, I was so mad! And my kids had to witness it.

I have an explosive anger tendency that is typically well managed. Last night, the first time since becoming a mother, it reared it’s ugly head. Luckliy, unlike some wife-beating relatives, my anger isn’t people directed but it is still a nasty thing to carry around.

Today I took another stab at the pie crust and was partly successful but still unpleased. Here is why:

Whether it was the newly introduced animal lard I used (instead of the yucky Crisco/ vegetable shortening I have mastered) or the fact that I had kids underfoot, the pie didn’t turn out as I had hoped it would… but I am damn glad it’s finished. May be ugly but it IS done.

This whole city dweller gone homesteading wife thing is both a challenge and an adventure. Growing to eat and then eating all you grow is a valuable learning experience for us (and most city raised people) that is littered with bumps along the way. Most of the time bumps are met with humor. Occasionally struggles seem impossibly hard and things are thrown.

And why are you blogging this total failure?

Because I think it is important to embrace the bad with the good and “keep it real”. I hate seeing all those “I am so amazing look at me” posts from people who try to put themselves out there as these shiny, perfect little things. It isn’t real and it doesn’t help me when I am looking for solutions.

So if you land here looking for homemade animal lard pie crust tips or experiences, revel in my failure and laugh. It is one of these moments and that is okay…

The next time I try out Betty Crocker’s damn pie crust recipe I’ll be sure to do it without kids underfoot because I believe the temperature and the dough combined with the amount of water added is key as well as timely action when the dough conditions are right.

Pastry for pies and tarts - Two-Crust Pie Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup +2 tablespoons shortening
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Betty Crocker says:

Pie pastry that is too tender or falls apart is caused by too little water or too much shortening.

Pie pastry that is dry in merely, or not flakey is  caused by shortening being cut into finely or too little water.

Gee that’s helpful. Thanks Betty!  - Nope.

If you have animal lard pie crust tip or perl of wisdom please do share it in the comments. This blogger could use some HELP!